The Edgy Veggie

Healthy Halloween: Make smarter candy choices

Pumpkin burger
Pumpkin burger Miami Herald

This week, marauding youth will come to your door demanding candy. The Edgy Veggie suggests giving it to them.

I’m plenty guilty of being the wellness police, but on Halloween, one of the few times when kids get to be kids, even I will bend. The whole foods I advocate every other day of the year can wait for one night.

You can’t give trick-or-treaters fresh fruit, homemade popcorn balls or gluten-free pumpkin cookies, no matter how wonderful they are.

That doesn’t mean loading kids up on junk. There are a few tricks to Halloween treats:

▪ No artificial dyes. The fun, eye-popping colors in many candies, including M&Ms and Twizzlers, come from artificial dyes, which have been linked to behavior issues in children. These dyes have been banned in Europe, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration still permits their use here — for now.

▪ No candy with nuts. No nuts of any kind. Nuts are rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats and deliciousness, but also, alas, potential calamity. Nuts count as one of the eight major food allergens. They’re banned in many schools and should be banned from your bowl of Halloween treats.

So what’s left? Your money or your conscience.

Upsetting, unfair but undeniable: Candy without risky ingredients costs more than its junkier counterparts. Compare LifeSavers gummies ($3.29 for 70 individually wrapped gummies) to YumEarth Organics fruit juice sweetened gummy bears, available at Whole Foods ($5.99 for 10 mini snack packs).

Individually sealed juice boxes like Apple and Eve Organics ($3 for 6) or SunMaid raisin mini snack packs ($1.69 for 12) are healthy and sweet, but take a chunk out of your wallet and are unlikely to be well-received except by others on the wellness police force.

Likewise, don’t hand out non-edibles like toothbrushes and pens; that will brand you a loser and invite your house to be toilet-papered.

Halloween comes but once a year. Let your kid (or you) celebrate with a holiday treat.

Balance it out by gathering the whole family for a quick but nourishing Halloween dinner you can prepare and eat together. Then let the fun begin.

November 1, we may return to our regularly scheduled broccoli. Happy Halloween.

Ellen Kanner is a Miami-based writer and author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.”

Main dish

Pumpkin Burgers

Pumpkin, the gourd of the moment, figures in these easy mild-flavored veggie burgers. Enjoy with your favorite burger fixings or try them with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of tahini (sesame seed paste) — they’re a riff on classic Middle Eastern pumpkin kibbe. These are baked for optimal health, but you can also pan-fry them. Pumpkin kibbe is often served with sauteed chard and chickpeas, making for a healthy trifecta.

1 3/4 cups fine-grade bulgur (cracked wheat)

2 tablespoons grated onion (half a small onion)

1 1/2 cups hot water

1 cup pumpkin purée (about half a 15-ounce can)

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the bulgur into a large bowl. Add the grated onions and pour in the hot water. Stir together and leave the bulgur to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. It will absorb all the water.

Add the pumpkin purée, cumin, paprika, flour and a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Stir together and then knead for a minute or two — the bulgur mixture will come together like dough. Form the bulgur into 6 patties, or roll into smaller balls — 15 to 18 — and place on a baking sheet. Brush with half the olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip the burgers or pumpkin balls gently, brush with the remaining oil and bake for another 10 minutes.

To cook on the stovetop, heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a 10-inch skillet. Add burgers or pumpkin balls and cook for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until bottom becomes firm and slightly crusty. Gently turn, adding another drizzle of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, then cook for another 5 minutes, until heated through. Serve and enjoy. Makes 6 to 8 servings.